Art as Therapy with WomenStrong DC: Part 1 of 3
To exercise their creative talents, the ladies of WomenStrong DC took part in a five-week Self-Portrait Silhouette Workshop taught by artists Lana Wong and Sabreena Jeru-Ahmed. The result was art as therapy: powerful, mixed-media self-portraits that provided avenues for the women to deal with personal issues ranging from death and illness to trauma and anger.
Here, they talk about the process of creating their pieces:
Anthony, my son, was killed in 2012 and so I made this piece as an homage to him. He was my first born son out of 8 kids and we were very close. If people saw me and didn’t see him they’d be like, “Where’s your other half?” (laughs).
The idea was to show him looking peaceful in the afterlife with me praying and trying to make peace with it here on earth. After years of feeling just sad and destroyed by his death, I now think of my son as my guardian angel. That’s why I put a wing and silver glitter over his picture. Butterflies are peaceful, so I think that was a nice touch. The mask I added because I like Mardi Gras. I think it’s fun so I put that one in there for me. I also put ‘E4=Anthony’ at the end, which means ‘Everything for Anthony’ and I added his real obituary on there and the bookmark we gave out at his funeral service.
He was a role model, very hardworking and well-known. He had his own detailing shop. He was very loved and got lots of write ups after his death. Even today I still can’t understand why they killed my baby. It was Halloween and that day we took my granddaughter (his niece) trick or treating. He said I’ll see you later and I gave him a kiss and a hug, but the next time I saw him he was lying in the streets. I just think maybe God needed another soldier and that’s how I made peace with this. I say to myself, “Don’t let the trauma make you question life. Just keep on pushing.”
My silhouette is about myself and all the positive things inside me that I want to spread into the world. The finished thing kind of reminds me of the peacock and how colorful and proud it is with the feathers. I love the color purple, the brightness and boldness of it, and so that’s where I started. Then I added the jewelry to symbolize that I’m always wearing my Sunday best.
The symbol in the middle is ‘namaste’ and means ‘the God in me greets the God in you’. I wrote it in black as my way of saying ‘by fighting through your struggles, you can come into the light’. I thought that was an important point to make because a short while ago I was diagnosed with cancer. Thank God, now I’m cancer free, but that was a hard time in my life.
Ever since then, I have a whole new look on life. You can be funny, you can be grateful, you can be sociable, or whatever. Our hard times don’t define us. It took me two sessions to make it and it kind of came to me naturally. I’m very proud of it.
*Bread for the City’s WomenStrong DC is a proud member of WomenStrong International (WSI), a consortium of non-profit organizations in five nations supporting women-led solutions to urban poverty.*